On getting into the games industry and failing miserably


This time next week I will 28 years old. Shortly there after, I will have been married for the some total of 2 months. So I am getting older and being all growed up, and now have a wife to think about as well as myself.  

Like many people, I am searching for something though. Not happiness in love or anything as cheesy as that since I have already found it, but rather contentness in my job and career. I have never really thought of myself as particularly creative until the last few years, when I have been unable to scratch a growing creative itch, and it is getting annoying.

So, like a lot of people reading and using this very site, I have decided I want to go into the games industry and here is a short account of my attempts thus far. I have to point out at an early stage though, so far, I have not been successful, I am still working as an IT support analyst and not particularly enjoying it anymore. It's a good job don't get me wrong, but it is not what I want to do for the next forty years. 

So for the last couple of years I have been applying for jobs as a QA tester for various companies, trying to get into the industry on a low grade footing and work my way up. Unfortunately, this has gone quite according to plan. The first interview I ever had I was suited and booted and ready to go, and I walked in immediately felt over dressed, since everyone else, including other interviewee's where in jeans and a shirt or t-shirt. Also insulted a game one of the interviewers made, so that wasn't so good. Alas, that job, at Kuju in Surrey, was not to be mine.

So I continued applying for other studios, eventually having a interview with Outrun 2006 developer Sumo Digital. Having learnt from my previous attempt, I attended the interview with a shirt and trousers, which I felt was a lot better and meant I wasn't as out of place, especially when one of the guys interviewing me walked in still wearing motorcycle leathers. The interview seemed to go well, though I still wasn't to get the job. 

At this point I got more than a little bit determined, and started sending my C.V. into various Yorkshire studios on a regular basis (one to two month intervals). Eventually, this scored me a second interview with Sumo Digital, which again went well and the guys recognised me and we had a great informal interview. They told me they had a new round of tester roles coming up and I would be high on their list. I am still waiting to here from them, and that was coming close to 2 years ago now.   From that point on I have been scanning games industry job sites on a regular basis to find a suitable position, even taking the tactic of sending my c.v. in once a month for a as long as the QA position was listed on the studios site (sorry Rockstar leeds!). As you can probably tell I am getting a bit desperate here.  

The reason I chose to tell you about this so far unsuccessful venture is because on Saturday, I had a very nice chap come round to my home from a company called Train2game. For those of you who don't know about them, train2game offer TIGA endorsed game programmer and game designer courses on a work from home basis. The idea behind his visit is that they only offer the courses to a select few individuals in a given post code area, and after a 2 hour interview about my gaming habits, what I want to do in the industry, why I want to change careers and various other things, he said that he wants to offer me a position on the course and that he needs to know by 10am Monday if I want it.  

Unfortunately for me, £135 a month for three years to be able to pay for the course is too rich, so, being unable to get any decent help from the government or parents or anything, I had to decline the course, effectively ending my dream for at least another year. I am still trying to find that dream job but the current economic climate isn't making it any easier.

The morale of the story is this: decide what you want to do with your life quickly. In school I wasn't much of an academic, and the only thing I really decided on was that I wanted to work with computers when I got older. If I had decided I wanted to work in games a lot sooner than I had, I may well have put more effort in, knowing I had to get the grades to get onto a decent course at university to be able to leap into the industry. Alas, I only realised what I really want to do in the last five or so years, which is just about the right time to be way too late.  

So kids, decide what you want to do quickly. Take a week out of your life and really look at yourself, what you like to do, what interests you, what makes you happy, and decide to make that career a reality. Hell, if you genuinely want to become a real life pet detective, do it, but decide soon because even though people say you can always re-train, the reality is an expensive and time consuming process that at a point, just isn't viable anymore. Don't make my mistake, take the advice and figure out what you want do soon.

I hope my story has helped and you take away more than 'this guy is a looser' from it. And if anyone from a games studio is reading, I am looking for work right now so please contact me for a copy of my C.V!    

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On Why I Game

Ok, let me be straight up from the off: this is about my reasons for gaming, what I like and don’t, and is generally more about me than anything else. I will ask the question of you at the end, but please, if your going to comment on my thoughts, at least be polite.

Now, for most of my life I have been a geek. Its an honest assessment, and one anyone who knows me, or indeed, has read my previous posts can attest to. I am cool with it, but this is probably the biggest reason why I game.

As a geek, I have a certain affinity for some material. For some geeks it is swords and sorcery, hack and slash, with the height of your geekdom coming from knowing every line from the Conan movies. For others, and for me, it is science fiction and to a lesser extent, comic books.

As a kid I grew up watching Transformers and G.I. Joe (action force as it was known in the ) along with M.A.S.K and Centurions. These cartoons really grabbed me, they were surprisingly adult in how they told their stories, despite being ‘kiddified’ and were brilliantly inspired pieces of sci fi. This followed on into the movies I watched, with the obvious one’s being Star Wars, because, lets face it, very few sci fi geeks don’t love them.

Gaming original started out as a way to a) shut me up and b) do something else but use my imagination to re-enact great Autobot vs Decepticon battles with my Transformers toys. However, as the technology of gaming became better and better, and more cinematic and intricate story’s could be told, I found my self drawn to it more and more.

I started playing space invaders when I was very young on a really, really old battery powered device with a black and white screen built in. Later I graduated to the ZX spectrum and games like Chucky Egg (I think that was it) and Ghostbusters. Then came the PC into our house and asteroids took over for a while.

Shortly there after, stories were added to games. Oh wow, now here was something that filled my head with information, and let what I do best run amuck. Street Fighter 2, Mortal Kombat, the very first Duke Nukem, Commander Keen, all games with stories that I got behind, along with the Seminal Doom.

My imagination was on over load, and it pretty much still is. Gaming, along with movies and to a lesser extend TV, has become my medium of choice to tell intriguing stories with great characters and fantastic backgrounds. I first geeked out over the story in Wing Commander, then moved on to both flavours of Command and Conquer (the installs for those early games were like p*rn for me!!!) before getting to PS2 games like Devil May Cry.

It was this era that really made me game a lot more. The story’s and cinematic flair available through the power of the PS2 and its successors (Xbox included) meant that developers came up with stories and universes that appealed to me on a fundamental level.

The biggest game to do that is, and despite the attention I know this will get, Halo. Bungie created one of the greatest science fiction universes ever, its intricate back story, powerful characters and awesome visual scope made it probably my favourite game series of all time. I just can’t help myself, it is brilliant.

And now, that is why I game. For the story, the characters and universes developers create. The power of modern computing technology allows for those cinematic cut scenes and powerful story’s, and titles like Braid have certainly shown that a story doesn’t just have to be about blowing stuff up. Gaming has become more than just a pass time of the bored (though it is still that), it is now a full fledging medium in its own right, with its own rules and boundaries.

These rules and boundaries can be bent or broken, but even if developers remain within them, they can create stories are compelling as the greatest works of literature or cinema and tell them in a completely different way. Do we need a movie based on Halo or Gears of War? Honestly, probably not, though I would go see them.

Games can tell stories just as well as any other medium, they captured by heart and mind years ago continue to do so. I may be a geek, and gaming geek at that, but I have been rewarded for my status with stories I will probably never told better in another medium, and experiences that will stick with me for the rest of my life. Gaming is great, though it may not be your reason to game, the stories and universes that I play through are mine.

So tell me, what are yours?

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On Gaming and Being Healthy

"The second step that we can all agree on is to invest more in preventive care so that we can avoid illness and disease in the first place. That starts with each of us taking more responsibility for our health and the health of our children. It means quitting smoking, going in for that mammogram or colon cancer screening. It means going for a run or hitting the gym, and raising our children to step away from the video games and spend more time playing outside."

- Barrack Obama

The above quote is from a speech President Obama gave to the A.M.A (American Medical Assiociation) and of particular note is the last sentance about video games.

Now, over the last few years there has been alot of information crop up about wether gaming is healthy or not, but read that sentence again. At no point was there any hyperbole about how games affect kids, nor did he pass out any blame for a local shooting to gaming. No, this statement mearly states a fact, and it is a much welcome and very refreshing change.

Lets face it, sitting on your butt and doing very little but playing games isnt particularly healthy. About five years ago i trained twice a week for two hours a week in Taekwondo (big up to any fellow martial artists) and inline skated just about every where to get around. I was very lean back then (though not particularly mean) and was gaming alot as well. I eventually just fell out of skating, and my Taekwondo instructer got really boring (keeping it traditional is one thing, JUST doing patterns up and down the hall is another) so I quit that, and for the next three years i did no exercise at all, save for a brief flirtation with a friends Taekwondo class.

In that time I put on nearly four stone, jumping from a healthy 12 stone to 16 in three years. I decided to try and do something about it two and half years ago and ended up starting capoeira. I started to loose weight but not much, until a little thing called Wii Fit came along. It was a revelation, I was exercising for about an hour every day for about a month, before i decided i should just join a gym, which I did and now I am back to 12 stone (just waiting on the six pack).

The point to this story is that gaming while great, does make you fatter if you do nothing else, no exercise and eat rubbish for a bit. The refreshing thing about President Obama's comments is that he isnt trying to stop you and your kids from gaming, just that you should be encourage, especially the kids, to go outside and run about and play, on bikes or whatever, which from my own experience is definately a good thing.

The latest crazy however, is gaming that exercises you, and again from my own experiences, Wii Fit is a good thing, as Iimagine is EA Sports Active and all the other fitness titles coming out. So maybe, now gaming and fitness dont have to be mutally exclusive, andif you dont want the effort of going to the gym or indeed, theexpanse, then these titles are agreat starting point, and they really do work.

So President Obama, while your comments are refreshing,maybe you should give those titles a whirl and see what happens. But then again, nothing beatsa skate out doors or a playing with your friends on your bikes, sothere should be a happy medium and it is easy to find. Gaming for an hour an night is still gaming,and though it can take you awhile to finish your games, it means youhave time to go to the gym, or out with friends.

ThePresident, in my opinion, wants you to find thehappy medium and that my friends is sound advice.

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On E3 and Press Conferences

So inevitably, a slew of lists of games that blew people away at E3 have started to come out. So I thought I would join the band wagon, since I am not above such things.

I watched all three press conferences and I have to say that each one felt more like the companies were actually trying, and had some genuinely new stuff to bring to the table. Nintendo’s was a bit lacklustre, but lets face, they did listen to complaints about forgetting core gamers, and you have to give them credit for that.

So here is my list of games and things that got me really excited out of the three conferences, what grabbed you?

Microsoft

Shadow Complex

I have only just got in to a few Live Arcade games, but dam this looks pretty sweet and I especially loved the robot boss at the end. The graphics looked great and it looked fairly open ended, and dude that foam gun was pretty rad.

Facebook integration

I get sick of having to go upstairs to check my Facebook account on the PC, so this is actually gonna be quite useful. Plus I will look like I have some mates on my xbox now, which is always good.

Live Sky TV

Finally a service to rival Netflix in the , but more than that it has the ability to let you watch sky broadcasts live. The problem with that, is that I already have sky+, so this is a little pointless, unless it lets me get channels I don’t normally get. The On Demand stuff is way more compelling to me, will have to see what the pricing structure is, if I don’t have to upgrade anything or pay on a per view basis it should be good.

Halo: ODST and Halo: REACH

Ok so I admit it, I am a massive Halo fan, I just love the universe, it is brilliant. So this brace of games really peaked my interest. I love the fact that ODST had such talkative characters; it really felt like they were real hard nosed grunts behind enemy lines. As for REACH, no knows much about it, but if it centres around the fall of reach, or even the book of that name, this will be ace!

Metal Gear Solid: Rising

So everyone’s favourite cyborg ninja returns for his very own game. This could go one of two ways, either it is like MGS 4 or it is more like Ninja Gaiden, only time will tell. If Kojima himself is writing and directing though, it will be a brilliant story and one of the most cinematic games every made, much like its predecessor.

Splinter Cell: Conviction

Whatever they did to change this game around, it worked and it looks awesome. It looks exactly what it needed to be to update the series and a true next gen Splinter Cell game. I also loved the flashbacks of Sam’s daughter painted on the walls and the fact he doesn’t have any of his gadgets and third echelon is hunting him.

Project

Ok so the big one for last. If this thing can do what they touted in that video, it will genuinely revolutionise the way we play games, but also the way we interact with our consoles. Being able to say goodnight and have your Xbox turn off, or say play movie and it starts with the film, and even recognising who you are and logging you in when you walk into a room is an awesome idea, I just hope it happens.

Nintendo

New Super Mario Bros Wii

Yay a new Mario Bros game for Wii, this time with four player co-op. I am never going to use that, but by myself it could really be fun still, and it is the type of game Nintendo needed to come out with, no bitching about forgetting the core market this year.

Wii Sports Resort

If this showcases the Wii Motion Plus as well as the first game showed off the Wii, it will be something a bit special. They know they have to make it more of a game, and so they have a cool looking sky diving intro and more gamey elements, I just hope Motion Plus doesn’t disappoint.

Super Mario Galaxy 2

The first game just made me happy. Seriously, half an hour of play and I was happy as Larry, who ever he is. If the sequel can bring that feeling back, while improve some the mechanics and add a few new ones, possibly using Motion Plus, this will be a great game.

Metroid: Other M

The Prime games were all great, but they aren’t cinematic or massively action or story orientated. Enter Team Ninja, creators of Ninja Gaiden, and we have Metroid: Other M, and though it was only shown in trailer form, it does look pretty dam sweet. The combination of first and third person combat, cinematic cut scenes and viciously fast paced action will probably split fans right down the middle, but to this fan, I can’t wait.

Sony


MAG

256 players and it looks like a probably battle played out before your eyes. Ok so that maybe a bit over the top but this looks pretty cool, even though I am not a huge online player this could be the game to tip me into online heaven.

Assassins Creed 2

All I needed from this was a bit of game play footage showing something cool to get me to want the game. I got some footage showing three very cool things, and those were Ezio (new protagonist) using Da Vinci’s flying machine to soar over the city, him killing two sentries at once with his twin wrist blades, and his leaping off a pillar to take a guy out. I WILL be getting this.

Metal Gear Solid: Peace

MGS: Portable Ops was a great game, so a non side story, full sequel to MGS 3 should be even better. Plus you get Big Boss and his three clones in there too, so that is pretty cool, so definitely after this one.

PlayStation 3 Motion Sensor

It seems everyone is going the way of the waggle, but Sony and Microsoft have bided their time and learnt from Nintendo’s mistakes, building very unique devices in the process. Sony’s effort is more like the Wiimote, but uses the PlayStation Eye to track movement, from what I could see about as accurately as Motion Plus. Combined with PS3’s impressive graphics abilities this could be a great device.

God Of War III

It looks awesome and incredibly visceral, I mean you actually saw intestines in the demo when Kratos ripped open a centaur. The crazy battle going above and behind the action between a god and a titan was pretty sweet too.

Modnation Races

Building on LittleBigPlanet’s play create share theme, this looks like it could be a whole lot better than Sackboy’s first annoying adventure. The speed with which you can create tracks and the fluidity of the process means I am quite looking forward to this.

So there you have it, my list of what peaked my fancy at the conferences of the big three, but what got your attention?

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On Gamer Girls

I was talking to a friend online last night who is at University and He was writing an article on girls in the gaming industry. So I thought I would nick his idea and do one myself.

Jade Raymond
The simple fact is that gaming is a male thing. Most games are testosterone fueld frag fests and the ones that arent are generally geared towards men, such as fighting games and racing games. It is an unfortunate fact, and many women who make games (Jade Raymond, Carrie Gouskous for example) work on titles aimed at men. Its not thier fault, that is the demographic and is just how it is. True gamer girls though, play those games, and have a love and passion for the medium that can sometimes outmatch the guys.

There is a currently well documented approach by the industry to attract more women into gaming, most notably by Nintendo, and with such titles as Ubisofts Imagine games and other supposedly 'Female Focused' entries on systems from the 360 to DS, but most notably the DS. There is also this tendancy to colour the systems towards women with pink DS's etc, which is a little daft but I guess is what some women want.

I personally think that the game industry attracts plenty of women, they are just much better at hiding thier gaming addictions than guys are unless openly asked about it. That is no bad thing, and I think as the medium grows in popularity and becomes more mainstream then more and more women will game, and this apparent need to cater specifically to a demographic the industry percieves to have a less delicate taste in games will evaporate.

I have read several posts on this very site by gamer girls, and they make no big deal about being female unless it is necessary. I am guessing several of them will respond to this post, which will show that girls game as much as boys, they just dont find it as big a deal. I watched the CGS finals on TV last year, and both teams that ended up in the final had female members, and both of those were absolutly kick ass players. While neither of them competed in Counter strike, and that thier were more guys on the teams, it does show one thing: True  gamer girls dont advertise, they prove.

That is the problem I have with the likes of the Frag Dolls. They were purposefully created by Ubisoft to promote gaming to females, which sort of defeats the point as they only seem to offend the women who do game off thier own backs, especially as it seems each member wasnt made part of the clan based on just thier gaming prowess (that maybe a bit cynical, but check the picture).
The Frag Dolls

I cant help but feel such all girl clans that are heavily promoted by the companies within the industry do nothing to promote the hobby/profession to the people they are trying to target. If women want to game, they will game and if they want to make a career out of it they will do that too. Gaming is big enough now that it is very easy for women to get into it with out getting a pink DS and playing Imagine: Wedding Planner.

In fact the term 'Gamer Girls' is wrong in itself. They are just gamers, the fact that they game might be surprising when you first learn of it but singling them out purely because they are female is stupid and doesnt move the industry along in any way, shape or form. I will probably get alot of flack for the this post because I am pointing out things about gaming women that I probably have no business doing, because I am not one of them.

Nobility is an interesting thing, I like to think this post is noble in its intent to prompt a discussion on this subject, hopefully to get the ladies who do frequent Giantbomb to have a say on it and make some new gaming friends out of that. More likely, it will be taken as a bit of a sexist rant and ignored by the majority. I guess only time will tell.

One last thing is that my friend that I mentioned at the start of this post also asked me if I had ever encountered any kind of sexism while gaming. I have to say I havent, but then I am not a female so that is slightly a given. I havent encountered any in lobbies or during matches I know feature women as participants, so I am unsure as to how big a problem this is, though I do bet that most of it comes 10 year old american boys who are too stupid to realise that girl they are slaggin off will kick thier ass from here to next wednesday in the game, then come round to thier house and do the same.
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on popcorn gaming

So I went to see the film Crank: High Voltage at the weekend, and it was entertaining in a ridiculous, OTT kind of way, but it also had the interesting effect of making me think about games.

The term ‘Popcorn movie’ is relatively new to the medium I believe, and is associated with movies like Crank, Transporter and Shoot em up, films that embrace the kind of stupidity that makes them one thing and one thing only: Fun.

These films do not attempt to do anything other than entertain, giving the viewer brilliant action, comedy, and over the top ridiculousness every couple of minutes, with the rest of the film showing the (probably) absurd storyline. A couple of memorable examples are the way the protagonist of Transporter 2 flips his Audi over to knock a bomb off the underside using a crane, and last bit of Shoot em up where the ‘hero’ shoots a guy three times in the arm, causing him to shoot his colleague.

The reason Crank got me thinking was because this idea of ‘Popcorn Movies’ have started to bleed into gaming, especially, it seems, over the course of the last year or so. Titles such as Ninja Blade, Wanted: Weapons of Fate and Mad World offer this same sense of OTT fun and it seems a deeply story and high production values aren’t a necessity anymore.

These types of games offer game play that requires very little thought to pull off, and are often very short, say 4-5 hours. What they lack in depth however, they more than make up for in sheer balls out over the top and, more often than not, cinematic action. Ninja Blade’s protagonist riding a motorcycle down falling debris and Mad Worlds stylish gore and two such examples of this, and while they raise no bars or set no new standards, they have found a place in many gamers hearts.

And that is the point, they fill a nice little niche in the gaming sector. These games will probably sell quite well, and the developers can have some serious fun creating them, which inevitably will bleed into the final product and produce a better game. The developers know they aren’t tying to reset a genre or set the sales charts alight, just that they want to entertain in a way only games can really provide. Sure the movies I have mentioned allow a similar kind of entertainment, but they are passive experiences and the interactive nature of gaming lets you do a lot more and entertain in different ways.

So I here by coin the term ‘Popcorn Gaming’ to be used to describe such titles, where after beating them you are instantly in a good mood because you know you have been entertained by a title that tries to do nothing else. These games can be as great to watch as to play as well, so get some mates round, hand out the popcorn and get some OTT gaming down your neck!

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The Philosophy of games

For the past few weeks I have been trying to quantify something in my mind, something that is a very large and complex subject, and was inspired by giantbomb's GDC coverage.

This subject is the Philosophy of games, and I am struggling because I am unsure if such a thing even exists, or if I am over thinking things or what. The general idea is that 'You can do things with games that you cant do in other mediums' which to an extent is true, but then you can do everything you can in games, except have viewer control, in other mediums as well.

What about 'You can engage the player in ways no other medium can do' This is true, TV, Movies, books, music wont engage someone to even half the extent that videogames do, but is this a philosophy?

I am not talking about the philosophy of games design here, I taking about games as a whole. If you sit down and think about games and what they do it is actually really hard to think about one philosophy for the entire medium. Different genres have a different philosophies attached to them, making this even hard to quantify, yet I can't dispell the notion that this over arching philosophy is there, I just need to find it.

It could be something as simple as 'games are designed to entertain, thats what they are and they dont fulfill thier full potential until they do', which now that I have written it, is actually fairly accurate. Everything has a purpose, a singular use that it will always be destined for, for example, an apple or an orange have the singular purpose to be eaten. So maybe once a game has entertained someone, somewhere, its purpose is fullfilled and that is the philosophy of games, so long as they entertain someone, thats all they need to be.

But the medium is growing all the time, pushing itself in new directions and taking on new challenges, so this philosophy seems a little simplistic. The notion that games help push technology in the systems that use them is true, but also simplistic and other factors contribute to that. Maybe its that people who are skilled in certain areas that arent viable to music, movies or other area's of IT come together and decide to be creative, forming something that means something to them, that is thier vision.

I have read through this piece and decided to call it a day, simply because my head hurts thinking about this and I can go off on so many tangents with each new thought. I think maybe, the philosophy of games is different to each and every person who plays/creates them, and that they are as much about individuality and what you take away from them as they are about the amount of effort, time and volume of people that go into creating them. If you have any thoughts on this, or think you have figured it out, please let me know, but for now, I am off to find some anadin...

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Grand Theft Auto IV: The Lost and Dammed Impressions

GTA IV was one of the greatest games of last year, indeed, of all time and gamers chomping at the bit for the continuing adventures of Niko Bellic will have to wait a little longer, as Rockstar have unleashed their first Xbox 360 exclusive download for the game, The Lost and Dammed.

The Lost and Dammed centres on Johnny Klebbitz, a member of motorcycle gang The Lost, and opens as the chapter leader is released from prison. The gang pick him up and he immediately starts to get them mixed up in things Johnny doesn’t believe they should be involved in, and, predictably, it all spirals out of control from there. The actual mechanics of the title are almost exactly the same as that of Niko's adventure (indeed, any modern GTA) except bikes are a major theme and a lot of the stuff you had to unlock by being friends with people is there from the beginning.

Johnny can use his mobile phone to call in Lost members as backup, ask one for a van full of guns, another to bring him a bike and also maybe take in a show with him. It is all almost exactly the same as the original, except the some times irritating friendship stuff has been taken out.

This title introduces two new weapons as well, though they don’t make that much difference to the game play so it is actually irrelevant as to whether you should use them or not. No this is a title to get for the story, assuming you liked the mechanics of the original game, and what a story you will get.

I personally loved the story as much as Niko’s, the biker gang frame working fantastically to draw me into the tale, as well has give a great focal point for Johnny. This is a guy who loves The Lost and its members as brothers and will do anything to keep it going, even if he doesn’t believe it is the right course of action for the chapter. As he gets double crossed and has to watch his beloved brothers turn on one another, you can really feel for him as he watches his life be really turned upside down.

This is how DLC should be done, and with Johnny’s story interweaving with Niko’s at certain points, Rockstar has shown you can make meaningful add on content for your game, one that enhances not only the original, but also the universe it inhabits as well.

The Lost and Dammed is spectacular, and every fan, no matter how fleeting, of GTA IV should download this.

 

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A reviewers life must be hard

A cursory glance down my submissions list/blog post history will reveal to you a few things, one is that I am not a very good writer; another is that I have a tendency to talk rubbish. It will also reveal a relativity long time between posts, and this is partly because I work full time and partly due to other factors.

Now obviously I don't work for a games mag or site such as this one, and so have limited time to play games anyway, but it seems to me there is only so much you can get done during a working day. Games get longer and longer every year, and some can be incredibly hard, thus increasing that time even more and yet every week your favourite sites publish reviews on the latest games.

I listen to a few podcasts on games, and they also ask what the people taking part have been playing recently/over the weekend. They always answer with at least 2 or 3 games generally, and some even say they started and finished a fairly lengthy game in the same weekend. My question is, how can they do that?

I love games and I play as often as I can, but I also live with my wife to be, go to the gym every night and capoeira twice a week, and can only seem to play games for about an hour to two hours a night, if that. I know that several of the people who partake in those same podcasts have girlfriends or are married, and I am sure their other (better?) halves want to spend time with them on an evening and on the weekend.

It seems that whenever I play a game, it takes me weeks and weeks to complete it, where as this professional reviewers can do it in a couple of days, in their own time sometimes, and sometimes a combination of own time and work time. I can't see that they get paid to sit and play a game for a full day or two of work time, or even that that is the only thing they have to do that day.

It is entirely possible that I am simply not as dedicated as they are, and obviously their lives are very different to mine, but if they can finish a 10 - 12 hour game in a week why the hell cant I? it's just plain annoying. For example, I am currently playing through need for speed undercover. I have been doing that for three weeks by the end of this week, yet it came out and on one of the podcasts I listen to one guy said he started it Friday and finished it over the weekend, and I know he has a girlfriend as he as spoke about her before.

I am hoping one or two of the reviewers on this site will read this and post how they manage to complete so many games with such busy lifestyles, or did how the reviews process goes with regards to time management at work. Then again, maybe one day my dream of writing for a games site will come true and I can tell you myself. It might happen, you never know.

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A step in the right direction

A step in the right direction

Reading the blog posts on the soapbox, I discovered an interesting article by EarthThatWas. The article talks about the new wave of digital distribution and DLC that was brought about by the new generation of consoles. The article is very good, but what really peaked my interest was a comment by user KevinH1986.

Kevin's comment related to the fact that physical media formats will never die because simply too many people like him have relatively poor broadband connections and thus downloading games takes way too long when compared to simply going to the store and picking up a boxed retail copy. While I agree with this in theory, there is one company paving the way for this to be slightly less of a problem: Microsoft.

Microsoft have come up with a truely ingenious thing in xbox.com, the online portal that allows you to check your gamer score, send messages and do all of the things you can do through your xbox. This includes browsing the xbox live market place/arcade, and its in this regard that they are paving the way for a digital distribution future.

By allowing users to browse the marketplace and then purchase/select items such as games, movies, themes and add-ons they want to download and then linking this to that users xbox so that when the machine is turned on the downloads automatically start, the house that bill built has taken the first true steps towards a digitally distributed future.

However, in order for this utopian future to happen, Microsoft have to take a leaf out of a rivals book, and that rival is non other than Nintendo. The japanese giant success in the online space is a debate lauded on by far too many and will go on until they get it right, but there is one feature of the Wii that is truely ingenius: Wiiconnect24.

With the Wii constantly connected to the net even in standby mode Nintendo is able to let customers know when a big game is out on the VC or Wiiware, or send messages that an update is available or they are organising an online tournament, without the machine having to be on. If Microsoft were to take this constantly connected concept and add in the xbox.com portal, then rejoice my friends, for the future is now.

This functionality will allow us to browse xbox.com's marketplace early in the morning while at work, then purchase and add to the queue the items we want to download. This then filters down to our xbox's, which despite being in standby mode starts the download. Even with a relatively bad connection speed the game etc should be down by the time we get home and is ready to play. This should, in theory, resolve the problem that Kevin would have with his slow speed.

Now obviously, this will probably never happen, the simple fact of the matter is retail is too big and powerful for the console manufactuers to ignore and therefore a digital distribution only model ultimately fails at the design stage. You never know however, and if someone had the nuts to attempt it, we could well see a revolution in how we buy, get and play our games.

*Edit* Having thought about it, retailers could still make money from this by changing to sell only hardware and peripherals, though this would greatly reduce thier profits. I guess time will tell.

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